The Complete Headbanging History Of Heavy Metal
A vast amount of heavy metal data from 1970 through the modern day
Sound Of The Beast: The Complete Headbanging History Of Heavy Metal by Ian Christe
Harper-Collins Publishing 386 Pages 2003
Earlier this summer I went to my local library to pick up a horror novel, and to check out some good quality DVDs. As I was waiting in line for checkout, I happened to glance over at the new arrival section near the counter. On the top of the stack was Sound Of The Beast: The Complete Headbanging History Of Heavy Metal.
Sure, there are plenty of books about heavy metal out there. Martin Popoff has created very resourceful reference guides, which I highly recommend. There have been various "metal encyclopedias" written about sub-genres of metal. Recently a NWOBHM guide was released. In the past it has been very easy to find one book from one author that writes about one particular aspect of metal, or one specific band (Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Metallica, etc). I've always strayed from books that are retrospective pieces simply because the author fails to have the knowledge needed to touch every genre of metal and talk about how each is important to the other. I have yet to find one writer in the metal community who can talk about Florida death metal, while at the same time telling you about the tough touring schedule that a band like Saxon had in the 70s. That wide scope of information is very hard to find. Plenty of people talk a good game, but when it comes down to the facts they just don't have them.
That is where Ian Christe comes in to play. This ex-Metal Maniacs writer seems to have all the answers. Christe has managed to collect a vast amount of heavy metal data from 1970 through the modern day in one mammoth hardback volume. Christe does a tremendous job bringing the reader into the dark, mysterious world of the average heavy metal fan.
Starting from the Ozzy-era Sabbath days, Christe paints a vivid picture of the early metal movement, with the author detailing the early exploration of Zeppelin, Sabbath, Maiden, Priest, and other smaller underground bands that you just aren't going to hear about from anyone else. Great detail is spent on the NWOBHM days, with plenty of commentary from stars like King Diamond, Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford, and Jess Cox.
From the NWOBHM, we get some information on the British punk movement before moving on to the early glam days of Hollywood. Christe invites the reader to cruise the Sunset Strip with bands like Ratt, Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, and Quiet Riot as he chronicles the early developments of American metal. Bay Area thrash gets alot of coverage, with bands like Exodus, Metallica, Slayer, and Testament before moving to the Florida death metal beginnings with bands like Cannibal Corpse and Death.
Even commercial metal campaigns like Grunge, Hardcore, and Nu-Metal are touched on in this book, with Christe showing an almost uncanny ability to relate every metal genre to each other, with punk inspiring new wave, glam inspiring thrash, etc.
I really enjoy the way Christe talks about the early metal labels like Neat, Metal Blade, and the start of Relapse and Earache. Brian Slagel of Metal Blade offers plenty of old stories, some being very humorous and some very shocking. You'll love the commentary from Dee Snider, Ronnie James Dio, and other acts like Anvil, Raven, Exciter, and Nuclear Assault.
Christe does a wonderful job with this book, and I congratulate him on his metal know-how. However I do have some negative comments. First and foremost, the entire underground US power metal movement is completely ignored by Christe. No mention of great bands such as Helstar, Jag Panzer, Hexx and so on. Even bigger bands like Savatage and Queensryche get the cold shoulder. Savatage gets a paragraph regarding Sirens, and Queensryche gets a small article on their power metal beginnings and their work on the popular Operation Mindcrime.
Not once is the name Helloween mentioned, other than a note in the back for having one of the strangest album titles-Pink Bubbles Go Ape. How can you talk about power metal and not mention Helloween? Progressive music is completely skipped, along with the Gothenburg death metal scene in Sweden. I was hoping for more info on Thin Lizzy, but for whatever reason the band for the most part is simply ignored.
My biggest concern with this book is the fact that Christe seems to play favorites. Its very obvious that the author is the biggest Metallica fan in the free world. Every chapter in this book has something to do with Metallica. He spends at least a fourth of this book talking about Metallica's records and intense touring schedule. Other popular bands for Christe would be Raven, Nuclear Assault, Black Sabbath, Napalm Death, Exodus, and Slayer.
Even with those few annoyances, Sound Of The Beast really does deliver what is promised. Ian Christe does manage to caputure the biggest moments of the ever evolving heavy metal creation in an easy to navigate work. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to take their metal farther than the speakers. This book will also save you countless hours of mouse clicking through time trying to locate facts and info on a particular genre.
Review by Eric
Pretty good book to read overall with a true headbanger style of writing as opposed to a more clinical outsider style. You could probably sum the book up like this:
Black Sabbath, NWOBHM, Metallica, Speed/Thrash, Black Metal, Death Metal, Metallica, Nu Metal
I do agree that Progressive Metal was largely overlooked with such notable bands like Rush, Dream Theater and whatever else is current in the genre. I did see some mention of Gothenburg stuff.
There were some other bits that I think could have been covered a little more:
--Quiet Riot and "Metal Health" is mentioned as one of the moments that began the Hair bands of the mid-80's period, but the first period of glam-influenced hard rock from the mid-70's with bands like Alice Cooper, Slade and Sweet that the hair bands expanded upon were little mentioned.
--Early American hard rock from KISS, Aerosmith and up to Van Halen seemed to have been pushed aside for more words written for lesser known NWOBHM bands. Sure they were more commercial, but metal doesn't have to be completely from the underground. Save for Zep and Sab, early 70’s metal was ruled by America.
I was glad that he inluded the punk--hardcore---metalcore scenes and the rap influence, since they are generally out of my familiarity.
Overall, if you're a metal fan and you want to learn a little history about the music you listen to, check it out because you probably won't find anything else this exhaustive.